Study unfairly gives Hawaii a low generosity rating
While a Hawaii shelter for the homeless faces difficulty, the state has received a poor ranking in generosity to charities.
A DECLINE in contributions to one of Honolulu's primary providers to the homeless coincides with the release of a study depicting Hawaii as one of the nation's most miserly states
. Fortunately, the study is badly flawed, and residents can be expected to respond again with another display of benevolence.
The Institute for Human Services, which provides food and shelter for the homeless at its Iwilei facility, received $62,338 in donations last month, down from the projected $104,000, says Lynn Maunakea, its outgoing executive director. "We're in trouble," she says, suspecting the decline was due to residents feeling the pinch after their outpouring to victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, the Pakistan earthquake and other disasters.
The Boston-based Catalogue for Philanthropy would have us believe the slippage is consistent with Hawaii residents being stingy. Its latest Generosity Index of the states and the District of Columbia places Hawaii ninth from last, down from 11th to last in the previous year.
A separate study conducted by the Boston Foundation soundly debunks the Generosity Index, which uses methodology that is biased against high-income states and neglects numerous factors. The foundation's analysis comes to the defense of Massachusetts, ranked 49th in the Generosity Index.
The foundation's comprehensive study, conducted by sociologist Paul G. Schervish, director of the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, ranks Massachusetts 11th and Hawaii seventh in generosity. The Generosity Index, Schervish concluded, "is sufficiently flawed that it is not a reliable indicator of giving relative to income and is an inadequate and misleading measure to compare the generosity of the residents of different states."
Schervish says other problems with the Generosity Index are its exclusion of factors such as differences in tax burdens, cost of living, demographic traits or religious vs. secular donations. It is based on incomes of all people but donations by only those who itemized tax deductions.
The index's methodology, using 2003 figures, consists of ranking the states according to the average adjusted gross income, or "having," the average itemized donations to charities, or "giving," and, finally, the difference between the two rankings. Thus, Mississippi, with the lowest average income and sixth-highest average donation to charities, scored 44 to finish in first place. Hawaii was 24th in "having" and 43rd in "giving" for a score of minus-19, for 42nd place.
The system is biased and simplistic. If the figures posted for all other states were the same and island residents had spent a hundred or even a thousand times more than their average contribution of $2,984, Hawaii would have been ranked no higher than ninth. If Mississippians had refused to donate a dime to charity, their state would be ranked 26th.
Hawaii residents can express their disdain for the Generosity Index's methodology by helping the Institute of Human Services during its time of need and continuing to practice the aloha spirit in the future by helping people in distress.